Getting Back Together (Genesis 35)

Summary:

Is it just me, or is there a sort of awkward waiting period between the time two people make up after a fight and the time they are comfortable with each other again? Even though you’ve said sorry and all that great stuff, the sting of the problem between you lingers, and any attempts at normalcy feel wrong, like you’re acting as if nothing ever happened. Isn’t this exactly what they mean in TV when the person is like “I need some time”? Nothing can be mended so quickly, they’re saying. Wait a little while, and then we can go back to the way things were before.

I find that I expect this kind of post-fight delay even in my relationship with God. After I’ve sinned, I feel like I have to be good for a while before God can even look at me again. This is, of course, not at all how things work, and this chapter of the Bible is a good example of that. Jacob and his family are probably still reeling from what transpired at Shechem. Dinah was raped while hanging out with the city girls. Her brothers, Simeon and Levi, took revenge on her rapist by killing every male alive in the city. Jacob and his family, afraid of retaliation, have fled to Bethel on God’s command. Once there, Jacob makes a decision. It’s time for a revival.

Jacob, his wives, his children, and his servants thoroughly purify themselves. They throw away idols and jewelry and change their clothes. Jacob builds an altar to honor God and remember all the good things He has done for them. After all this, there is no delay, no awkward waiting period. God immediately takes His children back to Himself, blessing Jacob and even giving him a new name (verse 10). God promises to prosper Jacob and his descendants and give them land. The relationship between God and Jacob is renewed. Things are back the way they were.

Of course, everything is not perfect. Rachel conceives again, only this time her pregnancy and childbirth is not as smooth as it was with Joseph. She dies giving birth to Benjamin and is buried. Isaac, Jacob’s father, also passes away and is buried by his two sons. And Reuben, for some sick reason, decides to sleep with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. The Bible only says that Israel (Jacob) “heard of it” (verse 22) but imagine the shock waves that sent through the household. Jacob could barely catch a break when it came to his family life, but at the end of the day he could still praise God, who promised to always be with him (verse 3).

The Treasures Within:

I Will Never Give Up On You

God does not hold grudges, y’all. What Simeon and Levi did last chapter was terrible. Horrifying. God could have held the sins of the children against the father, just as much as I wanted to. After all, Jacob is the one who raised those boys. How often today do we look at people in jail for awful things and blame the parenting? God isn’t like us, though. He wasted no time reconciling with His son. The very first verse of this chapter is God asking His child to come back to Him. God doesn’t need time to pout or think about how badly we hurt Him and how He might get back at us. He is unconditional love. No matter what we do, He beckons us back with open arms. The only one who will ever stand in the way of our relationship with God is us.

Don’t Give Up On Me

God didn’t just forgive Jacob and his family and invite them back into a relationship with Him. He fought for them. He urged them. He brought Jacob back to Bethel, where Jacob had first met and fallen in love with the one true God (verse 6). The location God chose wasn’t random – being in that place again reminded Jacob of what God had done for him in the past. Going back to Bethel was like walking down memory lane for Jacob. He remembered. He remembered who God was, how fiercely He loved, and how consistently He protected (verse 3). God wooed Jacob. He won him over. God didn’t let him go without a fight, and he melted Jacob’s heart in the process. It was beautiful. It was true love.

God’s Message To Us:

“I’m in this for the long run.” There are millions of posts and memes about the loyalty we all seek in a relationship. We want the person who will be there for us at our worst as well as at our best. We want someone to hold our hand when people die and tragedy strikes and life gets rough. No one fits the bill as perfectly as Jesus does. Like the boyfriend or girlfriend who is just too good to be true, God will never leave our side, no matter how bad it gets. When we are considering breaking up with Him, hurting Him, or leaving Him, He urges us to give the relationship everything we have. God wants us. He is in love with us. He’ll never get tired of us or kick us to the curb. How beautiful is that? How blessed are we? How can we not devote our entire lives to a Love this strong?

There Are Always Questions:

  1. In verse 8, the Bible mentions Deborah, who was Rachel’s nurse. It only mentions her as one of the three people who died in this chapter. Why mention her? We know nothing about her. I know there’s probably a good amount of people in the Bible who are mentioned without really clear reasons why, but it’s still interesting to think about. Why Deborah?

What do you think? What else jumped out at you from this chapter of the Bible? What did God teach you through His words in Genesis 35?

4 thoughts on “Getting Back Together (Genesis 35)

  1. It’s interesting that Ruben slept with his father’s concubine. 1) Ruben is the first born and Bilhah was Leah’s maid. Bilhad might have been only 12 or so when Ruben was born, so she wasn’t an old woman. 2) After Bilhah had a few kids, Jacob stopped sleeping with her. She was a concubine, but she was in forced celibacy. That was her life, and I guess she didn’t want to live like that, so she began flirting with Ruben.

    As for Deborah, Ellen White says that the mention of her death is a testament to her loving contribution to the family.

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    1. Hmm, good point. I’ve never thought about what Bilhah’s situation was like now – she probably was forced to be celibate, which I imagine would be difficult.
      And wow, that’s interesting about Deborah! I wish we knew more about her but maybe we will one day!

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    1. Oh, that’s so interesting. Both the oak where Deborah the nurse was buried and the palm where Deborah the judge held court seem to be in the same, or at least similar places, near Bethel. I wonder what is the significance of that connection?

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